Laura Spencer

Reporter

Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 

Pages

Arts & Culture
8:30 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Parting Questions For The Rep's Kyle Hatley

The Rep's associate artistic director, Kyle Hatley, is moving to Chicago in August.
Credit courtesy: Kansas City Repertory Theatre

The Kansas City Repertory Theatre announced this month that Kyle Hatley, associate artistic director, plans to relocate to Chicago in August.

Hatley, a 33-year-old native of Memphis, started working at the Rep in 2008. During his time in Kansas City, Mo., he's earned a reputation as an energizing force in the theater community — as an actor and director, as well as the creator of innovative new works at the KC Fringe Festival and the Living Room.

Read more
Arts & Culture
8:00 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Public Art Commission Awarded To Iowa Artist Sparks Discussion

A rendering of David Dahlquist's artwork at the KCPD East Patrol.
Credit courtesy of the artist

More than 200 cities across the United States have a percent-for-art ordinance, calling for a portion of construction project budgets to be set aside for public art.

Kansas City's one percent for art ordinance has been in effect since 1986. The first installation: "Bull Wall" by Kansas City native Robert Morris in the West Bottoms in 1992.

Read more
Beyond Our Borders
10:15 am
Wed July 2, 2014

3 Challenges Of Transforming A Vacant Lot Into An Edible Landscape

This section of a vacant lot in the Ivanhoe neighborhood is envisioned as the future site of an orchard.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

There are thousands of vacant lots in Kansas City, Mo. In the Ivanhoe neighborhood, from 31st Street to Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard and Prospect to Paseo, the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council owns more than 150.

"Every lot can't be a community garden. Every lot can't be an urban farm. So it's like, what else can we do with these lots?" asks Dina Newman, who's coordinating a project in Ivanhoe called LOTS of Love.

Read more
Arts & Culture
9:51 am
Fri June 27, 2014

From Page To Park: Focus And Anticipation At A Tech Rehearsal

Walking through a scene during a tech rehearsal for “The Winter’s Tale” Jan Rogge (Paulina) listens for instructions from director Sidonie Garrett on stage in Southmoreland Park.
Julie Denesha KCUR

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival’s production of "The Winter’s Tale" is well underway. But it takes a lot of time and effort – and people — to put the show together. For our series, From Page to Park, we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at the process.

About two weeks ago in Southmoreland Park in Kansas City, Mo., actors, musicians, designers and directors were working through perhaps the most intricate part of staging a play, a rehearsal called tech.

Breaking it down and putting it back together

Read more
Up To Date
3:44 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Local Listen: Greg Mackender

"The Winter's Tale" at the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.
Credit Roger Ridpath / Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival begins this weekend and while the play may be the thing, there’s live music too.

During performances of The Winter's Tale, there are three musicians on stage, including resident composer Greg Mackender on percussion and mallets, Sascha Groschang, on cello and Laura Parks on violin.

"I left a lot of openings for impromptu types of things," says Mackender. "There are other spots where they can get a little livelier, we can play around a little bit."

Read more
Arts & Culture
12:15 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Artists Explore Possibilities Of Vacant Lots In Kansas City

LOTS of Love coordinator Dina Newman points to the future site of an orchard in the Ivanhoe neighborhood.
Laura Spencer KCUR

Artists have a reputation for moving into places others don’t – turning areas once full of empty buildings into thriving districts, such as the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Mo. So, it’s not surprising they’d take a look at the thousands of vacant lots and vacant houses in the city, exploring everything from sculpture parks to art galleries on some of the least desirable lots.

Creating a new space with a purpose

Read more
Arts & Culture
1:12 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Take A Look At The World Cup Stadium Designed In Kansas City

The facade and roof of Arena das Dunas include 20 petal-shaped modules. These appear to move, like the nearby dunes.
courtesy of Populous

While watching the FIFA World Cup match between the United States and Ghana on Monday night, perhaps you noticed the venue.

The 42,000-seat stadium, called Arena das Dunas or The Stadium of the Dunes, has a petal-shaped canopy and was designed by Populous, a sports architecture firm based in Kansas City, Mo.

According to the firm, the challenge was to create a "grand space" for the people of Natal, Brazil. Architects drew inspiration from the flowing sand dunes that dominate the city.

Read more
Arts & Culture
4:17 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

A New President And CEO For The Kauffman Center

The Kauffman Center Board of Directors named Paul J. Schofer as president and CEO.
Credit Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Paul J. Schofer was announced Tuesday as the new leader of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Since March 2012, Schofer has served as the Kauffman Center's vice president of operations and chief financial officer.

Schofer will replace outgoing president and CEO Jane Chu, who's leaving to take on a new post as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Read more
Arts & Culture
2:35 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

LISTEN: Ben Folds Bridges Pop And Classical Music

Ben Folds performed and answered questions at a matinee performance on Wednesday, conducted by the Symphony's associate conductor Aram Demirjian.
Credit Beth Buchanan / Kansas City Symphony

Singer-songwriter Ben Folds had a strongly worded message for an audience at a sold-out Kansas City Symphony concert at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts this week: "Cities without symphony orchestras are crap."

Read more
Arts & Culture
12:54 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Senate Approves Jane Chu As NEA Chair

Kauffman Center president and CEO was confirmed today as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
Credit courtesy: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Jane Chu, president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The nomination was approved by a voice vote on the Senate floor.

Read more
Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Thu June 12, 2014

5 Things To Know About 'The Winter's Tale'

Sidonie Garrett, executive artistic director of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, holds a model of the set for "The Winter's Tale."
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR

This summer, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival presents the tragicomedy, The Winter's Tale, in Southmoreland Park in Kansas City, Mo.

It marks the first time the 22-year-old festival has staged the play, which explores the nature of jealousy.

Read more
Arts & Culture
9:27 am
Wed June 11, 2014

7 Questions For Doug Frost On Beer And The First-Ever Boulevardia

Music, food, and craft beer will jostle for center stage this weekend at Boulevardia, a three-day festival in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Mo.

More than three dozen brewers from 11 states, from Oregon to Maine, as well as two Belgian breweries, will be on tap to provide samples. And – of course — there will be beer from local favorites in Kansas and Missouri (such as Boulevard Brewing Co., the organizer of the event).

Read more
Arts & Culture
7:58 am
Thu June 5, 2014

KC Rep Receives Lead Gift For Renovation Project

In this conceptual sketch, the renovated lobby is envisioned as a "central living room" for theater patrons, as well as UMKC students.
Credit Helix Architecture + Design

The Kansas City Repertory Theatre on Wednesday announced $3 million from the Hall Family Foundation, the largest gift in the company's history. The funds will support the renovations of the Spencer Theatre and its lobby in James C. Olson Performing Arts Center on the UMKC campus.

The center was completed in 1979. The Rep's artistic director, Eric Rosen, said the stage is ready for an upgrade as the company marks its 50th year.

Read more
Performance
1:54 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Kansas City Theater Scene Celebrates 50 Years

Dr. Patricia McIlrath founded the KC Rep in 1964. She died in 1999.

The 1960s marked “the second golden age” in Kansas City’s theater history, according to historian Felicia Hardison Londré. It was a time of transition from touring companies providing entertainment to the city creating its own.

For Kansas City, this meant the creation of the first resident professional theater company since the 1930s: the Missouri Repertory Theatre, now known as the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. The “solid foundation” of the Rep, said Londré, led to the thriving theater scene across the Kansas City metro today.

Read more
Arts & Culture
8:13 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou, On Trying To 'Do Better And To Be Better'

Author Maya Angelou died Wednesday in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86.
Credit Dwight Carter, 2001

Poet, memoirist and political activist Maya Angelou died Wednesday at the age of 86, reportedly after a long illness. 

“Hello, good morning ..." is how Angelou opened the conversation when we talked by phone last week. At home in Winston-Salem, N.C., she joked about the weather in the Midwest.

"Because I think you people change weather in the way that other people change clothes," she said with a laugh.

Read more
Books
11:37 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Museum Plays Pivotal Role In New Novel From Nelson-Atkins Docent

Guanyin of the Southern Sea, Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) Chinese. In the novel, the protaganist, Lily Firestone, attends an event at the musuem. "I reach up and touch fingertips with the bodhisattva," she says.
Courtesy: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo.

Barbara Stuber has shown generations of schoolchildren and adults through the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She’s worked as a docent there for 25 years. Stuber’s new novel, Girl In Reverse, highlights the museum’s collection - including its Asian art.

The book’s set in the early 1950s, the Korean War is underway, and teenager, Lily Firestone, who’s adopted and Chinese, faces discrimination. But, at the museum, she finds a link to her culture and her past.

Read more
Arts & Culture
12:25 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Kauffman Center CEO Close To Confirmation For National Endowment For The Arts

Jane Chu, president and CEO of the Kauffman Center, speaks during a May 12 announcement about the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR

Jane Chu, president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, was nominated in February as the next chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts.

According to Kauffman officials, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Wednesday moved Chu's nomination forward to the full Senate.

The timing of the vote has not yet been released. Chu isn't expected to comment until the confirmation process is complete.

Read more
Community
5:30 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Looking At Kansas City's Vacant Land As Opportunity

A close-up of green spaces on a map called "Blue River Country Fingers." It's placed on top of a vacant land map, with Land Bank properties in red.
Laura Spencer KCUR

Vacant lots are a problem for cities across the country. They’re costly for city budgets, as the lots have to be mowed and cleared of trash. For neighborhood residents, they can affect quality of life, and decrease property values.

There are thousands of vacant lots in Kansas City, Mo., including at least 3,000 parcels in the city’s Land Bank, and most of them are located east of Troost Avenue. A team of University of Missouri-Kansas City students spent the semester investigating vacancy and mapping out creative solutions.

Read more
Arts & Culture
8:33 am
Mon May 12, 2014

3 Questions For Prairiefire Museum Director Uli Sailer Das

Museum at Prairiefire opens to the public on May 12.
Laura Spencer KCUR

A new museum linked to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, opens Monday in Overland Park, Kan. The Museum at Prairiefire, at 135th and Nall, will feature two traveling exhibitions a year from the New York-based museum, as well as permanent displays, a hands-on children's discovery room, classrooms and a cafe.

Read more
Beyond Our Borders
11:20 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Two Maps That Show The Concentration Of Lot Vacancies In Kansas City

UMKC seniors Sean Partain and Karie Kneller were part of the team investigating vacant land in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

It's estimated Kansas City, Mo., has at least 4,000 to 5,000 vacant lots. These sites, sometimes weedy and filled with trash, contribute to neighborhood blight and lower property taxes.

This semester, 11 seniors in the Architecture, Urban Planning and Design department at UMKC documented the parcels of vacant land scattered across Kansas City, Mo. They zeroed in on an area with the highest rate of vacancies, predominantly in the urban core and east of Troost Avenue.

Read more
Arts & Culture
11:01 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Male Dancers Take On Stepsister Roles In 'Cinderella'

Kansas City Ballet dancers Logan Pachciarz and Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye prepare for their roles as the wicked stepsisters in "Cinderella."
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR

Choreographer Victoria Morgan, artistic director and CEO of the Cincinnati Ballet, based her narrative ballet, Cinderella, on the classic story by Charles Perrault, as well as drawing on her own experience dancing the title role in previous productions. The Kansas City Ballet presents the work, which opens this weekend.

Read more
Community
5:57 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Conservative Advocacy Group Draws Protesters To Downtown Kansas City

Protestors, like disabled veteran Sara Campbell (at right), held signs across the street from ALEC's meeting in Kansas City, Mo. Chuck and Tina Tribble (left, and center) planned to stay until the meeting "broke for dinner."
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, hosted two days of meetings on May 1 - 2, with about 600 legislative leaders at the Downtown Marriott in Kansas City, Mo. The council is a conservative advocacy group.

On Friday, protesters gathered across the street for a Stand Up to ALEC event.

Read more
Arts & Culture
3:07 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

5 Questions For The Guys Reimagining Disney's Laugh-O-Gram Studio

Nelle Peters designed the Laugh-O-Gram building. She's considered one of Kansas City's most prolific architects.
Laura Spencer KCUR

Walt Disney opened his first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram, on the second floor of a red-brick building near 31st and Troost in Kansas City, Mo. The business folded in 1923, and the building, due to deteriorating conditions, was almost torn down about a decade ago.

But now, plans are underway for the site to return as a center for animation, but one for the 21st century. This includes digital storytelling, experimental animation training labs, and a theater to showcase new work – as well as an upgrade, so the building is sustainable.

Read more
Beyond Our Borders
6:06 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Walt Disney's Role In Transforming Troost

A view looking west to Troost from the Laugh-O-Gram Studio at 31st and Forest, Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

An attempt to breathe life into a building near Troost Avenue with ties to Walt Disney could help erase the corridor’s stigma as a key dividing line in Kansas City, says Butch Rigby.

Rigby, chairman of the non-profit Thank you Walt Disney, is behind an effort to revitalize Laugh-O-Gram Studio, which is just east of 31st Street and Troost.

Read more
Arts & Culture
9:25 am
Thu May 1, 2014

A New Era For The Kansas City Museum

Corinthian Hall, 3218 Gladstone, is the home of the Kansas City Museum.
Credit File: Susan B. Wilson / KCUR

Thursday marks a new chapter for the Kansas City Museum. The city’s parks and recreation department takes over management – and a new executive director is on board. 

Since 2012, Anna Marie Tutera has served as executive director of the Wornall/Majors House Museums. Now, she’s taking over leadership of another historic home: Corinthian Hall.

The former residence of lumber baron R. A. Long and his family, Corinthian Hall is located in the city's historic northeast. It's housed the Kansas City Museum since 1940.

Read more
Arts & Culture
10:58 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Kansas City Art Institute Students Interpret Lyric Opera's 'Die Fledermaus'

Costumes, props and other materials from 'Die Fledermaus (The Bat)' provide student inspiration.
Laura Spencer KCUR

It's a Thursday morning in the rehearsal space at the Lyric Opera Center in the Crossroads Arts District. About 20 students from the Kansas City Art Institute stand on either side of a long table covered with sketches, floor and building plans and colorful set drawings. They reach into pockets to snap photos with cell phones, or focus in with larger cameras.

Read more
Arts & Culture
9:42 am
Fri April 25, 2014

'Roads Of Arabia' Exhibition At The Nelson Reveals Layered Past

The first objects visitors will see are three illuminated stelae, including these.
Laura Spencer KCUR

Standing near the entrance of the new exhibition, Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, Julián Zugazagoitia, director and CEO of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, called the more than 200 recently discovered artifacts a "revelation for humanity."

Two roads are explored: the incense trade routes, caravans transporting frankincense and myrrh from Arabia to Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world, as well as the network of roads for travelers on religious pilgrimages to Mecca.

Read more
Arts & Culture
8:07 am
Thu April 24, 2014

New Nelson-Atkins Exhibit Brings Saudi Prince To Kansas City

Prince Sultan bin Salman visited Kansas City, Mo., this week for the opening of an exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Credit Courtesy: Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA)

There are more than 200 works in the traveling exhibition, Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from the fourth millennium B.C. to the 1930s.

The exhibit, now at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., features prehistoric tools and figures sculpted by early inhabitants, as well as ceramic vessels, jewelry, coins, tombstones and sculptures — ranging in size from small to monumental.

Read more
Arts & Culture
7:40 am
Tue April 22, 2014

NEA Provides Funding For New Initiatives In Kansas And Missouri

Mid-America Arts Alliance, founded 40 years ago, is located in the Crossroads Arts District.
Credit Courtesy: M-AAA

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 40 percent of their grant budget is dedicated to partnership agreements with state arts agencies and regional arts organizations – like the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, Mo. The NEA recently announced a second round of grants for 2014.

Read more
Community
1:54 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Prosecutor Names Suspect In Kansas City Highway Shootings

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announces charges Friday against a 27-year-old suspect tied to recent highway shootings in Kansas City. The announcement took place at the Kansas City Emergency Operations Center.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced charges Friday against a man tied to recent highway shootings in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The afternoon announcement revealed Mohammed Whitaker, 27, of Grandview, Mo., faces 18 felony counts, including class A and class B felonies related to shooting into a vehicle.

The charges stem from a series of at least a dozen shootings on Kansas City area highways. Three people have been hurt as a result.

Read more

Pages